- On July 21, 2016
- In Culture
Relive the Excitement: Festival Betances 2016 Recap
For the past 48 years, Festival Betances has brought together the Latino communities of Boston and beyond for a three-day event. This celebration of culture and customs occurs once a year in mid July with the hope of bringing friends and family together in a welcoming environment. Those that are familiar with the rhythms and foods of the culture can enjoy a piece of their heritage for the weekend, while those that are new to the community are invited to learn about our traditions. After so many years organizing this grand event, IBA is proud to say that Festival Betances 2016 welcomed seasoned and new attendees for a very successful weekend! In case you couldn’t make it, or if you’d like to relive a bit of the action, we have a complete recap of everything that occurred this year. [caption id="attachment_6679" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Dance groups parade through the South End.[/caption] The first night of Betances always kicks off with a parade around the Villa Victoria neighborhood in Boston’s South End. Before the parade began, IBA was proud to have president of our board Hector Cruz, Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, and our CEO Vanessa Calderón-Rosado say a few opening remarks. Each praised IBA for carrying out all the work that truly helps the Latino community. After their introductions to the festival, the parade was off. Dance groups, IBA staff, sponsors, and spectators toured the neighborhood in a mile-long route as each group danced to its own music. The high-energy parade left everyone ready for the night’s performance by Edgardo Zayas, who played familiar and improvised Bohemian ballads, providing the crowd with a perfect ending to Betances’ Noche de Bohemia. [caption id="attachment_6678" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Domino Tournament players enjoying the shade.[/caption] International Day of the festival started early on a very warm Saturday as neighborhood kids competed in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The younger ones had the chance to enjoy inflatable games and activities as well. One of Betances’ highlights also began Saturday afternoon: the domino tournament. A staple of Latino culture, the tournament brings players together for friendly competition and the chance for a cash prize. For some, dominos has been a game that goes back a few generations, and many participants compete year after year. One of the few women participating in the contest, Virgin, is the perfect example: “My father was a domino player all his life, and all his family played too. I’ve played here for five years consecutively. Last year I got second place! I come here every year, I like the festival because it’s like family fare.” Everyone is welcome to play, no matter their age. [caption id="attachment_6687" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Alex Alvear keeping the crowd moving to the beat.[/caption] As the heat began to subside, the crowd and the excitement grew. Alex Alvear from Mango Blue was a true representation of International Day. He explained how after playing with people from all places, he developed what he calls a "musical salad" of salsa, plena, cumbia and more. The crowd danced to his beats the entire show. When Alex finished, Mecánik Informal was very excited to take the stage. Straight from Panama, this young group came to Boston exclusively for Festival Betances. They brought an energetic, powerful sound that really got the crowd going with their Timba rhythms. The final act of the night was headliner Jesus Pagán y su Orquesta, a great talent right from Massachusetts. He played all original music composed by him that kept people dancing until the last notes. From salsa and merengue to bachata to reggaeton, Saturday’s acts had something for everyone. [caption id="attachment_6681" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Grease Pole champions.[/caption] Sunday began with a lot of excitement as the Greased Pole Competition started off the third and final day of Festival Betances. In addition to the grease pole, festival-goers also competed in the domino tournament finals. And of course, performances occurred throughout the day. A great variety of salsa in the afternoon during Puerto Rican Heritage Day raised energy and got people excited for the rest of the musical acts. Latin Logic Band invited Alex Alvear and some members from 8 y Más to the stage during their set. Together, they captivated the crowd with intense drum solos and lively sounds. Those dancing along caught a break after each performance by watching Fuerza Internacional and Latin Angels in between the live music. 5 Pal Batey de Puerto Rico brought a needed break in the summer heat as they played traditional, slow-paced Puerto Rican songs to which the crowd sang along. The excitement picked right back up when Jorge Arce took the stage with his Bomba/Plena group. Getting right into the crowd himself, he got everyone dancing and shouting back the lyrics. Before the main act, Vanessa took the chance to thank everyone for coming, as well as to present tournament awards and announce the raffle winners. She noted that usually the second place team of the grease pole isn’t acknowledged but wanted to make a special exception because the whole team was made of Villa Victoria residents. She was proud to have them represent the neighborhood and encouraged them to try again next year. After the break, 8 y Más was ready to close out the night. The band played songs from their new album, and kept the energy high with their brand of salsa. People from the crowd, both young and old, gathered to the front to show off their salsa moves. When their set was finished, the crowd begged for an encore, to which the group happily obliged. With one final song, 8 y Más ended Festival Betances 2016. [caption id="attachment_6688" align="aligncenter" width="600"] 8 y Más ending the night.[/caption] This year’s musical performances were certainly a highlight of the weekend, but they can’t outshine the food that the festival always offers. Piña coladas in a pineapple, arroz con gandules, empanadillas, pinchos, tostones, alcapurrias – these are just some of all the delicious Latino fare that attendees enjoyed at Betances. [caption id="attachment_6684" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Empanadas and more[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6680" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Iris Cruz's table of goods.[/caption] When asked about their favorite parts of the weekend, almost everyone said the music and the food. Iris Cruz, who has had a table selling knitted decorations with the Puerto Rican flag the past five years, excitedly answered, “the music!” She continued by saying: “everything is great, don’t get me wrong, but the music gets you going, makes you feel alive.” Other attendees Mara and Danny agreed that the salsa music is their favorite, and the food is phenomenal. [caption id="attachment_6686" align="aligncenter" width="600"] "We've been coming forever..."[/caption] From first-timers to those that have been coming for twenty years, Festival Betances welcomes everyone. Evelyn from Telemundo Boston described the event as “a celebration of [Latino] culture. There’s excitement–music, fun, celebrating life.” It gathers people from all different backgrounds to forget about any differences, and just have a good time. As two attendees (pictured) mentioned: “we've been coming forever, it's like family, you come here and you know everyone.” While we are sad this weekend had to end, we are already preparing to make next year’s festival even better. We would like to thank IBA’s staff for all of their hard work in helping to make the festivities run as smooth as they did. Also to our sponsors without whom this event would not be possible. Of course, we also want to thank all of you that came, danced, made friends, enjoyed the food, and helped make this festival the success it is every year. If you could not make it this time, follow us on social media for more recaps, and mark your calendar for 2017. If you’d like to keep events like Festival Betances going, consider donating....